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The Only One Who Stopped to Help

Joined: 12/5/2014
Posts: 3
As I cowered on the pavement tangled up in my bike, covered in blood, sand, and grease, I remembered learning about the “bystander effect” in social psychology courses in college a few years back. I was shaking, still in shock after having hit a patch of sand on the bike trail in Venice Beach and sliding across the sidewalk; my leg was throbbing. It felt like it had been scraped with sandpaper and I could see the underlayers of my beet-red skin exposed and raw. I was crying. I couldn’t help it. It hurt so badly. But not a single person paid any mind. It was like I was invisible. Or they were just trying really hard to pretend I wasn’t there to avoid feeling the moral call to stop and interrupt their important day to help.
A middle-aged man with a big serpent tattoo running up his arm practically ran over me with his skateboard. A very well-groomed young family walked right past me on their way down to the beach. A couple wearing matching blue Adidas running gear did actually glance my way as they jogged by, but then quickly focused their eyes on the prize in front of them and continued on with their morning exercise.
The only one who stopped to help was a homeless man in tattered clothing and dread locks. He looked vaguely familiar. I quickly realized I had passed by countless times when jogging down the boardwalk; he probably felt so invisible, just like I had a moment ago. A wave of guilt consumed me. He rushed over and sat down next to me, a look of sincere compassion and concern in his eyes.
Tattered clothes-man pulled some sort of oil out of his pocket, explained that it would help with the pain and clean out my wound, and poured some on my leg. I felt instant relief. He pulled a rag out of his jacket pocket and began to tenderly dab my wound. I thanked him again and again.
People continued jogging, walking, skating, and cycling past us, seemingly unconcerned and uninterested. I told him I couldn’t believe no one had stopped to help or even ask if I was okay. He said it was a daily experience for him. People often get so caught up in the daily grind, rushing to get somewhere else, get something better, get ahead, that they forget to just be…be human, be compassionate, be helpful, be selfless, be generous, be aware, be awake, and be real.
The next day, I went back to thank him for his random act of kindness. He said the best way to show my gratitude was to keep my eyes open, and to pay it forward and be that one person who actually takes a moment to stop and help someone else when the need arises in the future. And so I have.
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Comment by thiegsr

Joined: 11/6/2008
Posts: 702
On behalf of the entire editorial board, I would like to congratulate you for your Random Acts of Kindness essay being selected as our first place Adult Essay for December 2014.

To view all the results of our December 2014 contest, please check our winners page on or after January 31st 2015:

We will be contacting you via your registration email with more information and prize details.

Thanks for adding your voice to our mission “Changing the World . . . One Story at a Time” and feel free to share your accomplishment with the world.

Rebecca Thiegs Co-Founder and Education Consultant
Posted: Wednesday, January 21, 2015 7:14:52 PM
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Comment by Lisa Verge Higgins

Joined: 2/13/2015
Posts: 1
Hi Stacie--

What a wonderful essay! Congratulations on winning the December Stage-of-Life contest. I hope you enjoy RANDOM ACTS OF KINDNESS!


Lisa Verge Higgins
Posted: Friday, February 13, 2015 7:05:04 PM
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